The City of Brandon Planning Commission met on Wednesday evening to discuss the plan for The Hub which has been championed by city council.
The Downtown Hub secondary plan advanced one step ahead after the City of Brandon Planning Commission gave its approval in an unanimous vote at Wednesday’s meeting.
Ryan Nickel, a community planner with the City of Brandon, speaks to a City of Brandon Planning Commission meeting at city hall on Wednesday evening. (COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN)
The planning commission, and its public hearing, were legally required steps in order for the plan to be further considered and adopted by Brandon City Council.
Nine citizens also attended the meeting.
"I am very pleased we reached another step in the process," said Braden Pilling, the downtown development specialist for the HUB. "It was nice that everyone that came is in favour of the plan and onward we go."
While it’s true no one spoke out to oppose the plan, Steve Baker said access to parking is an issue for people attempting to use downtown shops and services.
"You have the makings of a good thing here, and there are enough incentive programs to attract people, but parking has always been tough," Baker said.
"One of the reporters from the Brandon Sun told me 20 years ago when she had a hair salon, parking was tough then. People want to park right in front of the building they are going to. They’ll walk a block and a half at a mall, but they walk on a level parking lot and they are going to two, three or four stores."
Baker said it would be different if downtown was like it was in the 1970s, when the major retail stores had a presence there. Baker said in the 1970s, there was room for 100 cars per block, but now there is only room for 30.
"Now you are going there for one special purpose," Baker said. "If you are going there for one special purpose, you want to be right there."
Even with that criticism, Baker liked the plan and wanted to see it go ahead.
"It"s nice to see them doing something and having an overall concept that encompasses most, if not all aspects of downtown," Baker said.
"A lot of what’s been done in the past, in my view, have been stop-gap measures and we’ll do this now and see what happens. This seems to have a rational raison d’etre about it. As you change the uses and change the mix, it’s going to have impacts. The increase in residential development will put different demands on your infrastructure, streets and uses."
Pilling said there is sufficient parking to meet the needs of downtown merchants and residents.
"It just needs to be arranged better," Pilling said. "I also think when I hear of people wanting to park in front of their building or they won’t come down, that’s indicative of destination types of businesses we have downtown. Once we get a mix of uses such as entertainment and there’s more of a reason to go downtown and stay for a couple of hours and socialize, parking becomes less of an issue."
Another man, Mike Romeiro, made a comparison to downtown Toronto, when asking what the impact of The Town Centre had on downtown development.
"It seems to be a sucking force, I’m not sure how else to describe it," Romeiro said. "I know in other cities, they are trying to de-mall downtowns to revitalize them. I lived in Toronto and the Eaton Centre in the 1970s was good for the centre, but bad for the neighbourhood. And only in the last 10 years, they revitalized the mall and the whole downtown area has improved greatly.
"I was wondering what plans you had about that mall and are there any considerations to make it more pedestrian friendly? Are there entrances on the sides of the mall and not just in one area?"
Brandon community planner Ryan Nickel said he agreed with Romeiro’s view.
"When I am walking down Ninth Street, I see one big wall," Nickel said. "That would never happen under existing policy. I like having it opened up. I think you need to get to a certain point where the market’s there and that it supports that kind of large-scale project."
While the secondary plan has not yet become a bylaw, Pilling said the Downtown HUB has been using the plan as a basis of its operations.
"We also have a little wrinkle with the development plan and that has to be able to be linked to the secondary plan," Pilling said. "At this point, I don’t see any reason why this would not be approved."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 12, 2012